The NFL, trying to get our attention away from Deflategate, announced last week that it will now place the ball at the 15 for attempts at single points after touchdown, therein not fixing a problem that didn’t exist in the first place.
The non-problem that isn’t being fixed is the ease with which placekickers convert points after touchdown – a rate over 99 percent, comparable to how Vladimir Putin tends to fare in Russian elections. And we collectively mutter to ourselves upon learning that point of fact: what, that’s a bad thing?
Apparently so. The NFL seems to want to inject some unpredictability into the PAT, though moving the kick back to the 15, making it equivalent to a 32-yard field goal, doesn’t do much, since NFL kickers make more than 96 percent of their 32-yard field goals, and that figure includes kicks from either hashmark, so you have to presume with the ball centered for PATs that their rate will only be better.
But give the NFL credit for trying, even if it’s unclear what the NFL is trying. Kind of like with baseball, trying to speed up games by having pitchers and batters fidget less on the mound and in and around the batter’s box. Because, you know, games were getting too long, on average just over three hours last year, way more than other sports.
Like football, where the average NFL game is already over three hours, and don’t get started with college football, with its challenge-every-play replay system that routinely stretches games to the 3:30 mark.
NBA and college basketball games are shorter, between two and two and a half hours; they just seem longer, with the interminable fouling and timeouts in the final two minutes that often dampen the drama to endgames.
Instead of fixing those easily fixable actual problems, basketball’s powers-that-be are focused, like the NFL and MLB, on fixing problems that don’t exist. College basketball is looking to shorten its shot clock, the thinking being that doing so will speed up the pace of play, without any thought put to how teams that can’t get a good shot off in 35 seconds are going to figure out how to do so in 30 or 24.
The NBA seems dead set on turning off even its diehards with the loophole that is Hack-a-Shaq, the strategy involving intentional fouling away from the ball that gives us a parade of sub-50 percent foul shooters clanking wide-open 15-footers in the form of entertainment.
In sum, we have the NBA giving us the most boring part of its game, foul shooting, with guys who can’t make them, college basketball efforting to give us even more sloppy offense in the name of tempo, baseball taking away the nervous tics of pitchers and hitters, and the NFL spending its time worrying about kickers, who no one else watching gives a flying eff about.
Sounds about right. Get to fixin’ stuff.
– Column by Chris Graham